Fifteen solicitors have had sanctions imposed by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for failing to pay insurance premiums while their firms were in the assigned risks pool, reports Legal Futures
Five principals have been suspended indefinitely by the SDT. The Tribunal recommended that the suspensions should not be lifted until full payment of the outstanding premiums is made.
Two solicitors were suspended for six months, four received fines totalling more than £20,000 and four solicitors were reprimanded.
The solicitors were required to pay the SRA costs of bringing the cases.
Another fifteen solicitors are waiting for cases to be heard by the SDT, and other proceedings are still being lodged.
These cases are the result of stricter enforcement of the payment of ARP premiums. This was introduced in 2010 as part of the SRA financial protection strategy. There is around £7.6 million in unpaid premiums for the last two indemnity years. These costs are paid by qualifying insurers, but ultimately by other law firms as the costs are passed on in higher premiums.
Steve Wilmott, SRA director of intelligence and investigation commented:
“We’ve always appreciated that economic conditions are difficult for many firms. But we also have a responsibility to the public and the profession to ensure that appropriate action continues to be taken against those firms which owe premiums to the ARP, some of which are significant.”
The SRA, with the help of external consultants KPMG, are monitoring those firms in the ARP who are shutting down. It has acknowledged that the cost and difficulty of some firms to obtain insurance may lead to firms operating without insurance.
The SRA stated:
“We are in receipt of the insurance details from the qualifying insurers and this will be cross-matched with the information received from the profession.” This should be completed by the end of May.
The ARP is closing in September 2013. Firms still in the ARP at that point will have three months to find insurance or close.
This suggests that the SRA is taking a harder line with those practising without insurance. This may force those firms in the ARP pool to close rather than risk practising without cover.
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